Chilean director Pablo Larrain brings a new perspective to the Kennedy assassination with Jackie, starring Natalie Portman as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The movie focuses primarily on the time between the assassination of JFK and the following weekend when Jackie gave an interview to TIME magazine reporter Theodore White (played by Billy Cudrup) in which she coined the term “Camelot” to describe the Kennedy presidency.
Understandably, during these few days Jackie is dazed, mournful, strategic and resolved, as she figures out how, when and where to bury her husband as she vacates the White House. Writer Noah Oppenhiem artfully weaves iconic, historical moments, preserved with archival pictures and newscasts into a movie that feels very much like what one would imagine it felt like for Jackie during those difficult days.
Jackie shows us a woman in crisis putting up a brave front while trying to hold herself together with dignity, grace and faith. Imagine having your charmed life ripped away from you in an instant. Your husband, the father of your children and the President of the United States has been murdered right before your eyes and you are hit head-on with the fact that you are no longer first lady and that your husband is truly dead because you are attending the swearing in of the next president within the next two hours! There are urgent decisions to be made about funeral arrangements. How do you tell your children? How do you deal with his family’s wishes? How do you deal with the press and the public and the various advisors around you?
Natalie Portman gave this role her all. There were times she was out of character and there were times she bordered on impersonating Jackie rather than embodying her, but overall it was a solid effort and a performance that will undoubtedly earn her an Oscar nomination; not only because the performance was good (not great, not outstanding, but good), but because there aren’t many female lead roles that are as meaty as this one this awards season to contend with it. Although unevenly portrayed, Portman’s Jackie is vulnerable, naïve, tough, smart, and at times cold, calculating and focused. While the acting of the supporting cast was solid, I feel like Portman’s role was so meaty the supporting cast had little opportunity to shine. Among the standouts were Cudrup, John Hurt as Jackie’s priest and Gerta Gerwig as White House Social Secretary Nancy Tuckerman. Each of these supporting roles were significant and well acted.
Unless you are a complete JFK/Jackie historical enthusiast, you should learn something new about these hours surrounding the assassination or Jackie herself, or you may see something you already knew in a different light. The story is so intimate and detailed, even the things I knew and had seen recreated and reenacted many times before seemed more vivid in this movie. All things JFK are touched upon only briefly, allowing the focus to remain totally on Jackie, even during flashbacks.
The scenery, set design and camerawork bring this film to life and take on a life of their own with powerful, sweeping shots of Jackie walking through various rooms in the White House, stoic and grieving. The make-up artists, hairstylists and wardrobe department all pitched in to provide finishing touches that make this movie feel as authentic as possible.
Jackie earned 8.5 out of 10 bloops. It really is a great movie. The writing was superb as it showed so many sides of Jackie’s personality and the focus was kept totally on Jackie and her grieving process throughout the entire film. There was so much care put into the details. The length of this movie is absolutely perfect. At 1 hour 39 minutes the story is succinctly, richly and beautifully told. Portman’s uneven portrayal aside (and I will chalk part of that up to the director because had he seen and corrected it this film might have been pretty close to perfect) I really enjoyed this movie and found that once I got into it (it didn’t take me long to get into it, but it wasn’t immediate) I was immersed up until the last frame. It wasn’t the same old recycled Kennedy story. It offers a fresh, detailed perspective on one of the most documented (no fewer than 25 films, miniseries and documentaries on the subject preceding it) events of modern American history and it is beautiful enough to make going to the movies to see it worth the money.
1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!